Prominent in its industrial application are the use of cassava for glue, biscuits, pharmaceutical products, confectionery, noodles, magi cubes, paper cartons, animal feed, pastries, mosquitoes coils, ethanol, textile industrial products, dry cell batteries, toothpaste, biodegradable products and most recently, the brewery industry is using it as alternative or complementary to sorghum, maize starch and barley.
Ghana is the third largest producer of cassava in Africa after Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is a crop with very low production cost, extremely resilient, and does well on marginal lands. Cassava is cultivated by over 90 per cent of Ghana’s farming population and it constitutes 22 per cent of the country’s agricultural GDP. In fact, the crop can grow all over the country. It is no wonder that the African Union declared cassava as the crop of the decade (2000-2010).
Extensive research has been undertaken throughout West Africa under various institutions such as: AVA, IITA, and FRI. In Ghana, there is an ongoing project called RTIMP under the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA). Despite all this support, the government has not done enough to lift the image of cassava to an industrial use.
The Ayensu Starch Company (ASCO) was established in an to attempt to commercialize the crop. Unfortunately, it was saddled with political, technical and financial problems. For such a crop to help alleviate poverty, private financing or intervention is the key to turn around this wonder crop in Ghana as had recently been done in Mozambique and soon to be rolled out in South Sudan and Nigeria through collaborative arrangements between SABMiller Breweries and DADTCO (Dutch Agricultural Trading Company) which has resulted in the production of Impala beer made from cassava in Mozambique.
This partnership came about as a result of the efforts by the two companies to remove two main drawbacks and these are the high moisture content (>70%) making transport of cassava roots over long distances uneconomic, and it’s rapid deterioration after harvesting necessitating the use of the roots within 48 hrs max after harvesting (preferably within 24 hours). These problems, SABMiller overcame by using DADTCOs mobile unit to process the tropical root plant at the point of harvest.
DADTCO’s has developed an innovative mobile cassava processing technology called the AMPU (Autonomous Mobile Processing Unit) that processes cassava roots to cassava cake and moves from one production area to the next to collect harvest of local farmers. This is then sent to the breweries for the production of beer.
This Mozambique project was first targeted in Ghana but could not take off for various reasons. In Mozambique, the cassava beer has been targeted to the rural population who drink hard liquor from unhygienic and dangerous processing methods that cost the Mozambique government millions of dollars in uncollected excise.